By Nathan Hefty
Star Wars’ new limited series Tales of the Jedi has debuted on Disney+. The series may have been overshadowed by episode eight of Andor which released the same day, October 26th. The series is only six episodes long and follows stories in the lives of Ahsoka Tano and Count Dooku. Its story is in chronological order and covers a broad time period from before The Phantom Menace to just before Star Wars Rebels.
Tales of the Jedi makes a strong addition to Star Wars canon. It gives greater context to the fan favorite stories and characters from the prequels. Each story is complete despite the episodes being shorter than the standard run time of animated Star Wars shows, with around 15 minutes rather than 22 minutes. The animation is stunning and beats that of recent shows like The Bad Batch.
The episodes revolving around Ahsoka showed her origin as a child on her home world, a sequence of training where Anakin taught her crucial skills that help her survive order 66, and the event that makes Ahsoka decide to fight the Empire and start the Rebellion.
Seeing Ahsoka’s upbringing, her world and her culture, was endearing and made me feel more connected to her journey throughout the Clone Wars. Previously, young Ahsoka was only shown during a brief flashback to when Plo Koon took her to become a part of the Jedi order.
In the next episode following Ahsoka, we see her demonstrating her abilities she acquired during the Clone Wars. Anakin, who is dissatisfied with how routine the demonstration was, takes her to spar with Captain Rex’s troops. He pushes her to focus and rely on the force so she can defend herself. In these scenes, Ahsoka’s character design is a mix between her season one and two design and her season three through six design, which represents where she is along her development.
Anakin’s unique training style, and his tough-love toward Ahsoka is refreshing since most of what we see from the characters in The Clone Wars is their antics on the battlefield; in this episode, Anakin can actually be seen as a mentor to his apprentice. The ending scene of the episode shows a brief interaction between her and Rex before they try to escape order 66, which shows how she is about to use what she has learned.
The last of Ahsoka’s episodes show her after the rise of the Empire. It links her story into events from Revenge of the Sith and leads up to the cusp of Star Wars Rebels. The majority of the episode shows her laying low in a farming community; she goes by the name Ashla, which is the ancient name for the light side of the force; it symbolizes her identity as a force user committed to the light side, but not the Jedi.
It shows the crucial point where she takes the calling to be ‘Fulcrum’, her role in Star Wars Rebels. The episode put part of the Ahsoka novel into film for the first time.
The episodes focused on Count Dooku form a concise arc in a smaller span of time during the Old Republic era. They are a great way to learn more about Dooku before his fall to the darkside since they bring old Star Wars lore to the screen. The first two episodes cover different missions Dooku went on that demonstrate his divergent views from the council, and his distaste for the corruption in the Senate and Jedi order. Each time, he is older and approaching his appearance by the time of The Clone Wars.
Notably, we see Qui-Gon as Dooku’s apprentice, which ultimately ends up guiding Obi-Wan’s beliefs and leading Anakin to become a very similar Jedi to Dooku. We get to see the future Separatist capital, Raxus, and see how Dooku forms respect for early Separatists. Jedi master Yaddle was also an intriguing addition to the story. In The Phantom Menace, it is Yaddle, not Yoda, who leads the Jedi council; there was almost nothing else known about her. Tales of the Jedi changes her story but also improves it.
Watching these episodes having read the Plagueis novel made for an elevated experience. The problems brewing in the Republic, and Palpatine’s dealings during that era directly impact, and sometimes overlap, the events of Dooku’s fall to the dark side in the show.
The final episode in the arc uses the same technique used in the book. Plagueis scatters plot points in the off screen moments taking place at the same time as the films. The show takes this a step further by scattering plot points relating to Dooku into “off screen” moments taking place at the same time as the Plagueis novel and The Phantom Menace. The emotion of Dooku’s final episode runs high. Dooku is grappling with the loss of his apprentice and the cost of his actions. It shows how Dooku is manipulated by Palpatine and goes to great lengths to further his plan.
Besides the story, another captivating aspect of Tales of the Jedi is the animation. I couldn’t stop marveling at how realistic the lighting and other effects had gotten; Natural settings and reflective surfaces were some of the best improvements and almost looked photorealistic. One subtle but notable improvement comes in the form of what isn’t shown. Animation from season seven of The Clone Wars and from The Bad Batch would pixelate and shudder during scenes that had a lot of lights, involved quick motion and camera movement, or any combination of these. I could only notice one occurrence of this issue during the series. The improved character designs also stuck out. I especially liked seeing characters from earlier seasons of The Clone Wars redone with enormously better graphics but still in the original animation style.
For all of its achievements, Tales of the Jedi is not without its faults. The primary issue is with consistency and story changes. In episode four, Obi-Wan’s character design is changed back to his Attack of the Clones appearance despite it being set far into The Clone Wars.
Also within this episode, Jedi master Ima-Gun-Di is walking the halls of the Jedi temple. Jedi master Tera Sinube is seen in the background of Ahsoka’s demonstration. Ahsoka is only using one lightsaber- the one she recovered from a thief with Sinube’s help. Her character design indicates that the story is set around season four of The Clone Wars, meaning this episode couldn’t have taken place before Jedi master Di was killed on Ryloth, yet he is resurrected in this episode.
Episode six does not perfectly follow the plot of the novel it is based on. The duel Ahsoka has with Sixth Brother is not represented as it is described in the book.
Overall, Tales of the Jedi is an exciting, refreshing adventure through the lives of individual characters. It is currently a limited series but has the potential to explore other intriguing characters from across the Star Wars universe, and appeal to many fans’ imaginations. New and experienced fans alike can dive into these stories and expect a satisfying addition to Star Wars canon.